Saturday, December 17, 2011

Samantha’s Christmas story

In mid-November* I invited you to send your Christmas vignettes by December 10 and promised I’d select one to publish here the week before Christmas.

Your responses were fun, and I send a big thanks to everyone who sent a story.

I’ve decided to publish four vignettes, not one, and today you get to read Samantha White’s story. It will give you a big smile. I wish I could have known her mother. You’ll see why when you read this story.

My family was Orthodox Jewish, but my mother, bless her, knew that Christmas was about more than the birth of Jesus, it was also about light breaking through the darkness, bringing peace and love and joy, and she was determined that her children would not be "passed over" when light, joy, and love were being dispensed to all the other children in our overwhelmingly Gentile neighborhood.

So, amidst the observance of Hanukkah and all the other business of December, every Christmas Eve Dad brought two wooden orange crates up from the cellar and nailed a plywood plank across the top, joining them into something resembling a fireplace.

My little brother and I watched while Mom covered it with crepe paper printed with a design of bricks, marveling as the boxes took on the realistic look of a fireplace. We tacked a couple of socks to the "mantel" and Dad carried the "fireplace" into the living room. Then my brother and I went to bed to await Santa Claus's visit to our house.

Now, we absolutely knew that the fireplace was made of orange crates and that we didn't have a chimney. But we also knew that this was Christmas Eve, and Santa did not discriminate among good little children on the basis of the religion their families practiced.

So on Christmas morning we bounded to the living room to find our proof that goodness was rewarded: gifts of toys and books, with tags reading, "From Santa Claus" were piled in front of the fireplace, and soon the living room was strewn with torn red and green gift wrapping paper and ribbons, and we were happily at play.

Since Christmas Day was also a secular holiday, Dad stayed home from work and my grandparents came to visit. Before they arrived, however, we all bustled to clear away the traces of Santa's visit—the tell-tale debris cleaned up, the "fireplace" dismantled, the crepe paper folded and put away, and the orange crates returned to the cellar, until the following year. When my grandparents arrived for dinner, no traces of our revelry remained.

My brother and I never left the faith of our ancestors, nor forgot our religion, because of Santa's visits to our house. If anything, it helped us understand how much it means to share joy at the darkest, coldest time of year, and to be with family, and to believe in rewards for being good. As we grew older, we learned that we could give as well as receive, and that in giving lay the even greater joy.

Now, don’t you, too, wish you could have known Samantha’s mother? What a spunky gal she must have been!

I recall my sweet grandmother making a makeshift fireplace with crepe paper printed to look like bricks—what a hoot!

Samantha, author of Someone To Talk To: Finding Peace, Purpose, and Joy After Tragedy and Loss, is a psychotherapist and Positive Aging Coach.* Click here to see her brand new blog, Peace, Purpose, and Joy.

Wednesday I’ll share another story with you. Will it be Diana’s? Or Kathy’s? Or Nancy’s? I’m not telling. You’ll have to come back!

*Links and references:

Send me your Christmas vignettes,

Samantha M. White, MSW, LICSW

Samantha’s blog, Peace, Purpose, and Joy, 


  1. Her mother knew "it was also about light breaking through the darkness, bringing peace and love and joy, and she was determined that her children would not be "passed over" when light, joy, and love were being dispensed to all the other children in our overwhelmingly Gentile neighborhood."

    What a beautiful and fun story. Thanks for posting.

  2. Linda, I am so honored that you liked my story and posted it! Yes, my mother was a wonderful woman, intelligent, sensitive, spunky, and resourceful. She lived to 93, and I held her in my arms and sang to her as she died. I miss her and am grateful for all she taught me. Thanks for prompting me to remember all that . . . . and Janet, I am also grateful to hear from you. Someone told me that "no one reads blogs, anymore," and I'm glad to learn that isn't true! I'm happy to connect with people here.

  3. Janet and Samantha, thank you for your comments.

    Janet, you're right, Samantha wrote a beautiful, fun story. The more I think about it, the more I love it.

    Samantha, your words about holding your mother in your arms and singing to her as she died reminds me of the book "Love You Forever." Are you acquainted with it? I gave it to my grown son a few years ago. Recently I read it to my 5-year-old granddaughter and despite all my efforts to keep my emotions under control, I couldn't keep the tears from running down my cheeks.

    Thanks for sharing your joy and love with us, Samantha.


  4. Samantha,
    I love this story of how your Mother nurtured the magic of Christmas for you as a child and that she was willing to do this against all odds It is beautifully written right from the heart, leaving you with a precious memory of "the light breaking through the darkness, bringing peace and joy and love" Thank you,Samantha, for inviting us all into your lovely memory and thank you Linda for sharing this wonderful, uplifting Christmas story!

  5. Linda, Thanks for such a beautiful post. Like you, I have the book "Love You Forever" and since it involves a little boy and his mom (and I have 2!) I get very emotional when I read it. My mom read it aloud at my brother's rehearsal dinner for his wedding and I never forgot it so kept her copy.

    Praying this is the most blessed Christmas for you, Dave, and your loved ones yet:)

  6. What a beautiful story! Love it! A different, original Christmas story. I look forward to checking out Samantha's blog!

  7. Kathleen, Laura, and Olive Tree: Thanks for stopping by and for leaving your comments. I wish you could see inside my heart and know how I cherish each of you!

    Laura, I suspect tears ran down many cheeks while your mother read "Love You Forever" at your brother's rehearsal dinner. I get teary-eyed just imagining the scene. I'm so pleased to hear from you Laura. When will your fourth novel reach bookstore shelves?

    Kathy, I appreciate the way you worded your comment: Samantha invited us into her memory. So true.

    Olive Tree, I'm so glad you enjoyed Samantha's story. You have been writing a number of heart-tugging Christmas vignettes, too, over at your blog.

    Big hugs to each of you,

  8. Thank you for sharing this special memory. Hope you have a wonderful week!

  9. Thanks for stopping by, Karen. I'm glad you enjoyed Samantha's story. You have a wonderful week, too. :)


  10. What a beautiful story! I've looked over your blog and the pages about your book and see we really do have quite a lot in common both in our backgrounds and our outlooks on life. I hope to get to know you better through our mutual blog postings, and I'm going to pick up a copy of your book, I think I will really enjoy reading it.

  11. Hi, Cathy, I'm glad you enjoyed Samantha's story. She has a lot to share with all of us.

    I SO enjoyed your Christmas blog post! What memories it brought back. :)